A controversial change in how benefits are handed out has caused Greenwich residents mental health issues, forced them into using foodbanks and even made some consider suicide.

Struggling recipients of Universal Credit have pleaded for the rollout of the service to be scrapped, claiming the system doesn’t work.

Residents met with the leader of Greenwich Council to talk about their experience with the change, which was designed to simplify payments by merging benefits into one.

Nationally, Universal Credit has led to users struggling with less money, five-week delays to payments and in some cases forced them to borrow from friends and family to make ends meet.

Woolwich resident Barrington suffers from osteoporosis and said he is now living on £24 a month. 

He said: “The system is broken. It is a complete disaster. I’ve had one payment from them that was just enough for rent, and to pay me £6 a week to support myself. If I didn’t have family and friends, I wouldn’t be here today.

“The system is designed to take away what we have got. I’ve gone down from £110 on working tax credit, to £6.

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“You wouldn’t get anybody in a room who will say Universal Credit has worked unless they’re completely ignorant.”

One grandmother, Jackie, was forced onto benefits when her marriage broke down.

She said she had been told to ask for support from her kids, and admitted problems with money and Universal Credit have left her embarrassed, feeling like she has to put on a brave face for her family.

She said: “You’re living on your nerves. I can’t ask my daughter, she has her own life. It’s stressful, I’ve worried so much.”

Jackie said the rollout came in the wake of her ex-husband falling ill and her son being in an accident, and admitted the stress has caused her to have thoughts of self-harm.

“I feel like I am having to explain all my problems. I shouldn’t have to explain what’s happening to me just because I want to sort out my rent. I’ve been told I might have to give my house up, and that would devastate me.

“I put on a brave face for my children and my grandchildren, but I feel embarrassed.”

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The mum said she has been using foodbanks since the rollout, along with resident Adam, from Eltham, who said he has contemplated suicide twice.

He said: “I had no money for nearly a year. Universal Credit got in the way. I couldn’t pay my rent, I was kicked out. I went downhill. I nearly committed suicide twice.

“I was arguing with family and friends. I had mental health issues on and off, but it got worse when this came in.”

The harrowing stories come as Greenwich Council is preparing its budget for the next year, including cash to support users of Universal Credit and to train people back into work.

However, council leader Dan Thorpe warned yesterday that the authority is at breaking point when it comes to funding frontline services.

“We’re trying to do what we can to look after people, but it is proving almost impossible now,” Cllr Thorpe said.

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The council has had over £100m removed since austerity measures began, and Cllr Thorpe said plans to rejig finances to distribute more to rural areas will have a big impact.

“The big thing now is that the government are out to consult on a change to funding. They’re giving a new weighting to rurality, to shift money away from poor areas and give it to the countryside.

“Everyone is feeling the pinch, and London is different to the rest of the country. We have different challenges to face and we don’t have the money to deal with it.”

Amber Rudd admitted this week that Universal Credit has been the cause of a national surge in the use of foodbanks.

The work and pensions secretary said in the Commons: “It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial roll-out of universal credit.

“The main issue which led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.

“We have made changes to accessing universal credit so that people can have advances, so that there is a legacy run-on after two weeks of housing benefit, and we believe that will help with food and security.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has said under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying for longer.